Of all of the analog synths I’ve owned over the past three decades, the Korg Polysix has a truly special place in my heart, since it was my first polyphonic synthesizer. For seven years, this single-oscillator, all-analog beauty was the centerpiece of my sound—from college bands to my first original new wave songs. Like your first car, your first serious relationship, or your first apartment, there’s a real intimacy with your first real synth. So when Korg asked me to create a bank of presets for iPolysix, I jumped at the chance. I knew all the tricks and idiosyncrasies of the beast, so being reunited, even virtually, was going to be a wonderful—provided they got it right.
From the minute I got the first beta, I was blown away. The Polysix has a warm, rich and slightly quirky sound, thanks to its thick, self-oscillating filter and an ensemble effect so watery and deep that it can go toe-to-toe with any ‘70s-era string machine without breaking a sweat. I whipped up a few of my old patches from the ‘80s and sat slack-jawed when they sounded identical, but without the noise inherent in the hardware chorus circuits.
While the signal path is simple—a single oscillator (with sub-oscillator) feeding a resonant filter, followed by an effects section—the Polysix was capable of a broad array of textures, from delicate plucks and tinkly arpeggios to six-voice stadium rattling unison mode.
The iPolysix does all of the original’s tricks and recreates the sound with astonishing accuracy, but since this is the 21st century, Korg has expanded its flexibility by an order of magnitude. First off, the LFO now sports multiple waveforms, the filter can be used in either highpass or lowpass modes, there’s a noise generator, and the effects section includes a vast array of new options, ranging from several types of reverb to esoterica like a grain shifter and slicer.
There’s also much more to this app than a killer recreation of the synth. The app is eight-way multitimbral, with six Polysix-based drum sounds and two discrete poly synth tracks, each with its own polyphonic step sequencer. These sequencers are pattern-based, with TR-808-style step editing features that are implemented wonderfully. I had no problems whipping up truly musical sequences with this app, despite the fact that the tiny buttons on an iPad screen were a trifle fiddly for big-fingered folks. What’s more, you can easily overdub knob turns and elaborate morphing tricks, thanks to its dual Kaoss-pad performance mode. As if that weren’t enough, every parameter can have its own embedded 16-step sequencer linked to tempo. If you’re a fan of rhythmically modulated sounds, you’ll be in heaven.
The amenities don’t stop with sequencing. As the creator of the WIST protocol, Korg’s implementation in iPolysix is bulletproof, so you can sync the sequencer and arpeggiator over WiFi with any other WIST-compliant app and jam out with your iBuddies. You can also share iPolysix audio data with AudioCopy-compliant iPad apps, so it’s painless to bounce a synth idea to bring into another iOS DAW or sampler.
In addition to WIST and AudioCopy, you can also render your sequences as WAV files or use Korg’s nifty Polystage functions, which takes SoundCloud integration to another level. Using Polystage, you can upload works in progress or finished tracks to share with other iPolysix users. Features like this show that Korg really gets it when it comes to online collaboration, as well as letting friends and fans into a producer’s creative headspace—a trick that Deadmau5 has leveraged with great success in his own social media approach.
If the iPolysix was a simple monotimbral recreation, it would still be a contender for a Key Buy. You can say I’m biased, but that’s not because I did a chunk of the factory presets, it’s because I’m in love with the original Polysix. I’m always on the lookout for a vintage unit in pristine condition (that I can actually afford), but until that happens, I’ve got iPolysix—and that puts a huge smile on my face.
Stunning recreation of the original Polysix sound. New features, like noise and highpass filter modes. Extensive sequencing and drum machine features. Supports WIST and CoreMIDI. Innovative SoundCloud integration via Polystage tools.
Step sequencer use can be a tad fiddly on the iPad’s touch screen.
A brilliant and affordable emulation of an analog classic, with a boatload of iOS and online amenities.